From modernity to the aesthetic appreciation of history
in Instead of modernity
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Influential cultural theories – for example those of Barthes and Foucault – have their basis in an account of modernity, based on an understanding of the mid-nineteenth century. This account is exclusionary – notably of the Hispanic, which supposedly had a foundational role in the modern world, through the conquest of the Americas and the establishment of large-scale statehood, but putatively was then not a key player in the modernity it had helped initiate. The process of reincorporating a supposed periphery, alongside other marginalised aspects of culture, undermines the cogency of the notion of modernity. Both in its conceptual implications and in the practice of reincorporating what was excluded, this opens up the perspective of intimate connections across time and place, self and other, representation and reality. Nineteenth-century culture itself contains still untapped potential for such ways of imagining comparisons, commonalities and similarities, often beyond direct causal connection. The chapter takes inspiration from writers such as Dimock and Manning. Instead of modernity, all this opens up the perspective of ways of writing comparisons beyond narrow contextualisation and historicisation. In their place comes an aesthetic appreciation of history, of the forms and patterns that may be traced across place and time. These form ‘moods’, explored in a spirit of ‘lavishness’ and drama that evoke a psychological journeying across contingent juxtapositions, without pre-established maps or rules.

Instead of modernity

The Western canon and the incorporation of the Hispanic (c. 1850–75)


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